Every budding filmmaker has to start somewhere, and events like the Pegasus Film Festival give them their first chance to share their vision with the world.
“Young people are a source of inspiration,” says Niloo Jalilvand, founder of the Pegasus Film Festival. “They are vulnerable and ready to put their heart and soul into their work.”
The Pegasus Film Festival, founded in 2015, is the oldest student-run film festival in the country. Each year, the film showcases the work of young, aspiring filmmakers who explore deep themes in a variety of genres and mediums. The seventh edition of the festival will begin on Monday, May 30 at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.
Jalilvand says the festival grew out of a film club she helped start while working as a math teacher at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts. Club members organized the first film festival which led to the creation of the Pegasus Media Project which oversees the Pegasus Film Festival.
“My goal was to give students the opportunity not to do work that doesn’t make sense,” says Jalilvand. “I feel like one of the issues with students is what kids have to do just to get grades, and I always try to have opportunities to just not do that.”
The festival has grown over the years even during the pandemic, when the gathering was forced to go virtual. Entries are primarily from North Texas, but this year has attracted entries from out of state and even the country.
“We’re looking for innovative and thoughtful films, films that are important to students and in recent years social justice has been a common theme,” Jalilvand said. “This year’s festival in particular is really about mental health, about COVID and loneliness, about feeling isolated, about feeling abandoned by adults. Some of it is very empowering.”
Some of the entries on the film festival schedules include Prism, a film directed by co-directors Hanna Le and Jake Kerstine about a teenager’s mental struggles to cope with the loss of a close friend at a very vulnerable time in his life. Other shorts include See in colora dramatic film shot in black and white on 60mm film by director Janelle Frazier, about a young African-American photographer who explores honest themes and feelings about race and acceptance through the lens of her works.
“SEE IN COLOR” Trailer by Janelle Frazier on Vimeo.
Other entries get into the sillier side of storytelling with animated shorts like the horror-comedy Peanuta clay film about an accountant who makes a terrifying discovery in a banal and familiar place, and Bish fish fisha pencil-drawn comic by Katherine Li and Christine Yan about the journey of a fish with big eyes from a fishbowl to a frying pan.
“I make films to express myself in a way, and I want to draw attention to certain topics that should be highlighted,” says Le, who is also the festival’s social media manager. “It really is an amazing art form because it combines so many other types of art like writing, animations and music, and I love all types of art.”
Working on his films and with the festival helps students like Le connect with professional filmmakers and other industry experts who can help get their foot in the door even before they enter college or their first job.
“I definitely learned a lot about marketing and social media and those tactics to help promote brands,” Le says. “Besides that, as a member of Pegasus, I learned a lot about the film festival process. So it’s really cool because even though my films have been screened at other festivals, I didn’t know not how they worked, so I got an insider look at the process.”